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The d2010 Era

Aldarc

Legend
There is a remarkable cluster of fantasy TTRPGs that came out primarily post-2010 that are basically d20 derived variants, including the elephant in the room: 5e D&D. These "d2010" games, in part, likely exist as a reaction to not only 4e D&D, but also 3e D&D. But what I would like to discuss are the commonalities that exist between these systems regardless of their mechanical differences. Because I suspect that the mechanical differences exist mostly as differences in "how" to address the changing Zeitgeist in d20 game design.

Dragon Age RPG (2010): Green Ronin published Dragon Age RPG, which became the basis for their Fantasy AGE system (2017). Sure, it's 3d6 and not d20, but it nevertheless feels rooted in D&D. It has three classes that go up to 20th level and uses a sort of feat/specialization (subclass) hybrid system.

13th Age (2013): A co-production between Jonathan Tweet (3e lead designer) and Rob Heinsoo (4e lead designer) that some have described as the love-child of the two systems.

Numenera (2013): Monte Cook quit WotC and his work on D&D Next to found Monte Cook Games and create Numenera, a game that uses d20 for task resolution. Characters are generated modular way through a "I'm (Descriptor) (Type) who (Focus)."

D&D 5th Edition (2014): In some regards it exists apart from these other works given its commitment to being D&D - which is something the others are not necessarily trying or required to be - but at the same time it feels like it would be amiss to not include it.

Shadow of the Demon Lord (2015): Robert Schwalb also did a bit of work on D&D Next before going his own way and creating Shadow of the Demon Lord, which may reflect some of the different choices he would have made for 5e. It also features a modular design where players choose an Ancestry, but then also choose a Novice Path (e.g., Rogue, Magician, Priest, Warrior), an Expert Path, and a Master Path, which can be mixed and matched.

I almost feel like I probably missing some obvious games that belong to this "d2010 family," but I'm not sure.
 

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schneeland

Explorer
A lot of d20-based OSR-stuff (both with little and with larger variations from the original framework) came out. I can list a few specific titles if you like.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I'm not entirely sure if I would classify OSR during the 2010s as being part of this d2010 family. Though there are some similar beats that both OSR and d2010 games share, they also have some different ones: e.g., OSR retrocloning as well as the fact that d2010 has a lot of D&D-connected designers (e.g., Cook, Pramas, Heinsoo, Tweet, Schwalb, etc.) vs. OSR indie/fan designers. I'm sure they are exceptions, but it seems like these d2010 games have a lot more in common with each other than with the OSR family of games.
 

DMMike

Guide of Modos
No mention of Pathfinder 2? Does it lean on the (WotC) Open Game License and SRD?

I'm not sure that the d20 "zeitgeist" can change much, given that it's basically codified. Did you mean the D&D zeitgeist? RPG?
 

Aldarc

Legend
No mention of Pathfinder 2? Does it lean on the (WotC) Open Game License and SRD?
To be honest, I'm not sure how Pathfinder 2 fits into this schema. In many regards, the other games seem like solid moves towards rules-lighter games with respect to 3e and the d20 engine. Pathfinder 2, though it lightens the load in places, it also raises the complexity in other areas while also trying to still act as a game in the vein of 3e and Pathfinder 1.

I'm not sure that the d20 "zeitgeist" can change much, given that it's basically codified. Did you mean the D&D zeitgeist? RPG?
I meant "d20 Zeitgeist." So how a lot of preferences in d20-based RPGs designs were shifting post-3e D&D: e.g., OSR, 4e D&D, etc. Not to mention Dungeon World (2012) and Fate Core (2013), which also may have exerted some market influence, albeit mostly at the designer level rather than the consumer level. But overall, the d2010 era seems to involve rethinking the d20 system in the wake of both 3e and 4e D&D. As I said before, admittedly Dragon Age RPG goes outside of this mold being 3d6, but the d20 DNA is definitely there.
 

DMMike

Guide of Modos
So, you're really focusing on the usage of the d20, huh? That has significant implications for the d6. But I digress...

I've read me some Fantasy AGE. On one hand, watching Wil Wheaton run it didn't feel much like D&D, and definitely not like 3rd ed. On the other, some terms in that book seem to come directly from the Player's Handbook. But Numenera uses a d20, sure. It's further from D&D than Fantasy AGE is. I wouldn't describe Numenera as a reaction to D&D3, except for Monty Cook's ties to the game. And the character classes. And the list of actions-in-combat (despite the fact that there's no combat chapter).

If a game doesn't use the Open Game License, I wouldn't call it "d20-based." Just because that's a really blurry line - evidenced by your mentions of Dungeon World and Fate.
 

Campbell

Legend
Numenera basically is Post Apocalyptic D&D with the serial numbers filed off. It not being OGL based does not change that.
 

Aldarc

Legend
So, you're really focusing on the usage of the d20, huh? That has significant implications for the d6. But I digress...

I've read me some Fantasy AGE. On one hand, watching Wil Wheaton run it didn't feel much like D&D, and definitely not like 3rd ed. On the other, some terms in that book seem to come directly from the Player's Handbook. But Numenera uses a d20, sure. It's further from D&D than Fantasy AGE is. I wouldn't describe Numenera as a reaction to D&D3, except for Monty Cook's ties to the game. And the character classes. And the list of actions-in-combat (despite the fact that there's no combat chapter).

If a game doesn't use the Open Game License, I wouldn't call it "d20-based." Just because that's a really blurry line - evidenced by your mentions of Dungeon World and Fate.
Not quite. When I talk about the developments in the d20 system, that does not mean that these games have to use the d20 system or even a d20 (e.g., Fantasy AGE). However, one can tell that there is a lot of overlapping conceptual DNA shared between these games rooted in the preceding d20 system that points to a particular trend in game design around this time. For the lack of a better, pre-existing label, I use the moniker "d2010" for the family of games in this vein.

There are some fairly common features, particularly more modular character class design. 5e D&D is probably the most basic with its class + subclass model. Fantasy AGE, for example, uses three broad classes (warrior, mage, rogue) but then creates specializations for characters using a three-tiered feat/talent system (i.e., novice, journeyman, master). This is similar to what one finds in 13th Age (i.e., adventurer, champion, epic). Numenera has its "Descriptor Type who Focus" modularity while also building around three broad Types/Classes (~warrior, mage, rogue). In Shadow of the Demon Lord, PCs build their character over 10 levels by choosing a Novice path, an Expert path, and a Master path.

There is also a simplification of the skill system. (In this regard, this would be a contrast to Pathfinder 2 which further codifies skills and their effects). There is no skill list, for example, in either Numenera, 13th Age, or Shadow of the Demon Lord. These games, instead, opt for more free-form skills. 13th Age goes with rating Aspect-like backgrounds. Numenera lacks a skill list but character options can confer training in various activities or scenarios (e.g., you are trained in solving puzzles, etc.). Shadow of the Demon Lord opts for Professions that act as permissions for success or rolling. 5e is more like 4e (than 3e) in that it offers a more simplified skill list that is less inclined to delineated particular outcomes with the results. In some regards, FAGE is the exception in that it opts for a much larger skill/talent list, but it is also a lot less interested in skill descriptions and codified outcomes.

You can pick up the echoes of 3e (and 4e) in the class design in these games. In the case of Fantasy AGE, one can also see clear influence from Green Ronin's True20 system, which itself was a d20 system derivative.
 

DMMike

Guide of Modos
Not quite. When I talk about the developments in the d20 system, that does not mean that these games have to use the d20 system or even a d20 (e.g., Fantasy AGE). However, one can tell that there is a lot of overlapping conceptual DNA shared between these games rooted in the preceding d20 system that points to a particular trend in game design around this time. For the lack of a better, pre-existing label, I use the moniker "d2010" for the family of games in this vein.
You have an interesting idea going here, but I can't contribute much until I know which games you're talking about. The set seems to include games that aren't SRD-users, but some that are, but it isn't the set of all games released from 2010-2019. If it's just those mentioned in the OP, then you have a discussion. (But you said you might have missed some...)

Really, most games are d20-like if you're just looking for these features:
  • GM and PC
  • Character classes
  • General rule for conflict resolution
  • Characters gain skill
  • Has rules that govern combat
 

Aldarc

Legend
You have an interesting idea going here, but I can't contribute much until I know which games you're talking about. The set seems to include games that aren't SRD-users, but some that are, but it isn't the set of all games released from 2010-2019. If it's just those mentioned in the OP, then you have a discussion. (But you said you might have missed some...)
I think you're getting it. I'm not talking about all d20 games during this time or even just d20 games. Instead, I am talking about a set of d20-inspired games that were published 2010 and 2015* - mostly by designers with roots in writing/publishing for D&D - that seemingly respond to 3e/4e in a number of similar ways. In some regards one could even think of these games as different visions for what 5e D&D possibly could have been, not necessarily in whole, but in part. There may be other such games out there that fit this mold, but I'm not entirely sure.

* It may be better to have 2015 as the marker, as we start getting games written more in response to 5e as the 800 pound gorilla in the room: e.g., Pugmire, Adventures in Middle Earth, Five Torches Deep, Black Hack, Index Card RPG, etc.

I may be fascinated by these games that were published in this 5 year time window in no small part because, in retrospect, these games offered a brief flash of creativity demonstrating similar ideas with different methods before the increased market homogeneity that has since followed in the wake of 5e.
 
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GrahamWills

Adventurer
Numenera basically is Post Apocalyptic D&D with the serial numbers filed off.
You can always tell people who have not played much numenéra by quotes like this. They see a d20 and monte cook and, well, that’s it — no need to think further.

I’ve run a fair amount of numenéra and it was BY FAR the hardest for D&D players to wrap their heads around. Honestly, even Fate was easier. Huge differences are:
  • You don’t have stats that add to anything; you have pools of different types of health instead. And only three
  • You spend your health to add to success chances on every roll
  • You only have three classes of character
  • You get no xp from killing things and stealing their loot.
  • One shot magic items are more important than your character abilities
there’s a ton of minor differnces (armor is radically different and natural healing is just weird) but looking at even the most basic fundamental RPG activity — how you resolve an action — will immediately indicate how different it is from D&D. Honestly, Fate is more similar to D&D for this aspect of the game than numenéra is.

Feel free to dislike the system, but if you think it’s very similar to D&D, give players a pre-gen character sheet and run a combat without explaining the rules to them and see how far you get.
 

Campbell

Legend
You can always tell people who have not played much numenéra by quotes like this. They see a d20 and monte cook and, well, that’s it — no need to think further.
Perhaps we both have experience with the game and see it quite differently.

There’s a ton of minor differnces (armor is radically different and natural healing is just weird) but looking at even the most basic fundamental RPG activity — how you resolve an action — will immediately indicate how different it is from D&D. Honestly, Fate is more similar to D&D for this aspect of the game than numenéra is.

Feel free to dislike the system, but if you think it’s very similar to D&D, give players a pre-gen character sheet and run a combat without explaining the rules to them and see how far you get.
The differences in the grand scheme of RPG design are minor and largely technical differences rather than play style differences. Numenera is a game where players play re-skinned warriors, mages, and rogues who explore ruins and confront dangerous weird creatures. There are fantastic items that players seek. The adventures feel like D&D adventures to me. Playing the game feels like playing D&D to me. That's not a knock. I like many form of D&D.

It's obvious to me that the design of Numenera (which is very well executed) is one that is focused getting system out of the way and enabling GM storytelling. It delivers on what a certain brand of D&D always tried to do, but often failed to do.
 

Aldarc

Legend
You can always tell people who have not played much numenéra by quotes like this. They see a d20 and monte cook and, well, that’s it — no need to think further.
Hi. My name is Aldarc, and I have been playing Numenera variously off and on since 2013. And yeah, it's pretty much an alternate version of D&D albeit with modified rules that frontloads task resolution to before the d20 roll rather than after. The number of stats, the natural healing (not dissimilar from spending HD), armor rules (it's DR), the number of classes (re-skinned warrior, mage, rogue), XP for discovery (hello, XP for gold), etc. are hardly major differences. And Cyphers? Beneath the surface: single-use magic potions, scrolls, talismans, etc.

Much of Numenera plays like an OSR resource game, except where players are leveraging their pools as a unified resource for both task completion and health. You can even find a number of articles that talk about how Numenera plays like an OSR game albeit with hybrid narrative elements (e.g., GM Intrusion, XP spending, etc.). It's much as Campbell says:
It's obvious to me that the design of Numenera (which is very well executed) is one that is focused getting system out of the way and enabling GM storytelling. It delivers on what a certain brand of D&D always tried to do, but often failed to do.
Monte Cook more or less explicitly states this in the book itself.

I’ve run a fair amount of numenéra and it was BY FAR the hardest for D&D players to wrap their heads around. Honestly, even Fate was easier.
I had the reverse experience, with most of my veterans having a hard time wrapping their heads around Fate, mainly due to Aspects, Troubles, Create an Advantage, and the Fate point economy. Explaining Numenera was comparatively easy. I did that in 5 minutes. Since I have backed various Kickstarters, I also have a bunch of handy resources like cheat sheets and a play mat that acts as reference guides.
 

pemerton

Legend
Really, most games are d20-like if you're just looking for these features:
  • GM and PC
  • Character classes
  • General rule for conflict resolution
  • Characters gain skill
  • Has rules that govern combat
I'm not super-familiar with the games @Aldarc is interested in: I have a copy of 13th Age but have not played it; ditto for the 5e Basic rules. But based on my passing familiarity, I can say that neither has general rules for conflict resolution. (In this respect both depart from 4e, which does have such rules.)

I suspect that this is connected to @Campbell's remarks about Numenera being designed to enable GM storytelling. Conflict resolution rules get in the way of that.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
I'm not super-familiar with the games @Aldarc is interested in: I have a copy of 13th Age but have not played it; ditto for the 5e Basic rules. But based on my passing familiarity, I can say that neither has general rules for conflict resolution. (In this respect both depart from 4e, which does have such rules.)

I suspect that this is connected to @Campbell's remarks about Numenera being designed to enable GM storytelling. Conflict resolution rules get in the way of that.
I think there may be a difference of definition here over what "conflict resolution" means. For me, it's simply the resolution of an activity where there is active opposition. TASK RESOLUTION is "I want to climb a wall" or "I want to traverse Alaska". CONFLICT RESOLUTION is "I want to render the orc unconscious" or "I want to win the cross-Alaska race".

I suspect you have a narrower definition? I also suspect DMMike's definition is closer to mine, but will leave them to confirm.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
As a professional numerics guy, I started getting interested in the underlying question here of "how close to D&D is game X". So I approached it as a machine learning problem.

First, define the dimensions of similarity. That's a hard start, but I decided to read Wikipedia's article on D&D and use the section on mechanics to come up with dimensions of similarity. Looking at the concepts that merited their own section, or the concepts that had significant descriptions I came up with ten dimensions. One (task resolution) was a multi-sentence description, so my restatement "Rolling d20+factors > DC to accomplish task" is more subjective than the others and therefore particularly open to disagreement or re-statement.

Next, come up with a way of ascribing similarity. I went with a 6-point scale:
5: It's so similar that I wouldn't note any differences to a D&D player
4: It's essentially the same, with some tweaks that would work in D&D easily
3: There's the same idea there, but the implementation is a bit different
2: That concept isn't there, but you can use another mechanism to do a similar thing, and that would be a normal thing to do
1: It's really not a thing in this game, but you could it if you wanted to, it would just be odd
0: There's no mechanical way to do this that doesn't seem incredibly forced

Finally, a way is needed to accumulate these scores into a single measure. For simplicity, I just went with adding up and taking the percentage of the maximum possible score (50).

So below is my table of how I perceive systems I have strong familiarity with to be similar to D&D. I'd be interested in seeing other people fill in their tables and see what the results are as the judging on the scale above is bound to be fairly subjective:

1599595815089.png


As expected 13th Age is VERY similar. Savage Worlds and BRP are somewhat similar. Numenéra, Gumshoe and Fate not terribly similar. This bears out my experience of running campaigns using these systems for D&D players pretty well.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I think that you are overthinking this a wee bit too much, and some of your points are debatable. "Saving throws," for example, are a thing in Numenera but disguised in the form of Might, Speed, and Intellect defense rolls: i.e., Constitution, Reflex, and Will. And are classes and types really all that different that the implementation is that different? My players would often just refer to their "type" as their "class." How is alignment worth mentioning as an integral part of D&D when comparing it to other systems? Character levels? Tiers. When you break it down though, you start at Tier 1, and go up 5 tiers, but each tier progression requires buying 4 components each worth XP. So you can potentially see leveling as going up 5 tiers x 4 XP4 components = 20 levels. One of my players was the one who pointed that out to me. Static damage isn't so drastic that it causes people to have their minds blown in astonished Pikachu meme fashion. I think that there are more important differences than what you stat out in terms of what makes a system.

The early Numenera adventures were mostly dungeon crawls and fairly familiar D&D stylized adventures. This is one reason why "Numenera 2" came about, because one of the major criticisms levied against the system was that it failed to be as pro-exploration as advertised when the nuts and bolts of the system was a Warrior, Mage, Rogue setup about dungeon-crawling and not about recovering artifacts for building a better future. There is also a lot of DM fiat authority afforded to the DM, which is not unexpected from a designer whose major experience comes from GMing D&D.
 

pemerton

Legend
I have a copy of 13th Age but have not played it; ditto for the 5e Basic rules. But based on my passing familiarity, I can say that neither has general rules for conflict resolution. (In this respect both depart from 4e, which does have such rules.)
I think there may be a difference of definition here over what "conflict resolution" means. For me, it's simply the resolution of an activity where there is active opposition. TASK RESOLUTION is "I want to climb a wall" or "I want to traverse Alaska". CONFLICT RESOLUTION is "I want to render the orc unconscious" or "I want to win the cross-Alaska race".

I suspect you have a narrower definition? I also suspect DMMike's definition is closer to mine, but will leave them to confirm.
Consider that A is trying to persuade B to lay down his/her arms.

Neither 13th Age nor Basic 5e has a straightforward way of resolving this, comparable to their (very similar) ways of resolving A is trying to knock B unconscious.

Consider A is trying to beat B in a foot race. Neither 13th Age nor Basic 5e has a straightforward way of resolving this either.

Consider A is hoping to arrive at the ruins before B gets there. The same is true.
 

DMMike

Guide of Modos
For me, it's simply the resolution of an activity where there is active opposition. TASK RESOLUTION is "I want to climb a wall" or "I want to traverse Alaska". CONFLICT RESOLUTION is "I want to render the orc unconscious" or "I want to win the cross-Alaska race".

I also suspect DMMike's definition is closer to mine, but will leave them to confirm.
Just one of me. But yeah, similar definition. I use "conflict resolution" here because I'm referring to a conflict in narration desires between the PC and GM, not conflict-amongst-characters. However, it's quite possible that the PCs and GM have differing desires in how they'd like to narrate the outcome of a character-conflict.

Consider that A is trying to persuade B to lay down his/her arms.

Neither 13th Age nor Basic 5e has a straightforward way of resolving this, comparable to their (very similar) ways of resolving A is trying to knock B unconscious.

Consider A is trying to beat B in a foot race. Neither 13th Age nor Basic 5e has a straightforward way of resolving this either.

Consider A is hoping to arrive at the ruins before B gets there. The same is true.
D&D 5e has a general rule for these - I can't speak to 13th Age.

Player announces intent, DM calls for a check and compares it to a difficulty class, and PC succeeds or fails.

What 5e doesn't have is special rules for these situations (it has special rules for character combat).
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
I think that you are overthinking this a wee bit too much, and some of your points are debatable. "Saving throws," for example, are a thing in Numenera but disguised in the form of Might, Speed, and Intellect defense rolls: i.e., Constitution, Reflex, and Will. And are classes and types really all that different that the implementation is that different? My players would often just refer to their "type" as their "class." How is alignment worth mentioning as an integral part of D&D when comparing it to other systems? Character levels? Tiers. When you break it down though, you start at Tier 1, and go up 5 tiers, but each tier progression requires buying 4 components each worth XP. So you can potentially see leveling as going up 5 tiers x 4 XP4 components = 20 levels. One of my players was the one who pointed that out to me. Static damage isn't so drastic that it causes people to have their minds blown in astonished Pikachu meme fashion. I think that there are more important differences than what you stat out in terms of what makes a system.
I think that's the first time I've had the OP of a thread chide me for thinking too much about their post! Is there badge for that? yeah, it took a set of particularly long and tedious work zoom meetings to go that deep into it.

I understand that everyone has different vies of what are key features of a game. I also would quibble with wikipedia's definitions, but it's a well-defined, well-read definition that seems at least roughly correct. For me I'd add in the things D&D doesn't have -- meta-currency being the big one. But I didn't want to bring inperonsal bias, so I went with an outside authority. If you want to look back in old threads and come up with your own "ten most emblematic features of D&D" that would be great -- I'm pretty sure I recall some such discussions maybe a decade back?

For your specific points, sure you can shift a point around here or there, but it won't make a lot of difference. It's pretty clear that at least based on wikipedia's definition of what is core about D&D mechanics, Numenéra is way less similar to D&D than BRP and SW are. And having played in a fantasy world SW campaign series, my experience strongly mirrors that result.

I do however completely agree that the early Numenéra published adventures are pretty awful. Devil's Spine is about the only one I ran. The others I looked at and just said no. May I recommend The Bridges We Burn as an excellent 3rd party supplement instead? I've also had much more success using the worlds presented in the "Into the ..." series -- not adventures per se, but easy to create adventures from. Much better hooks and ideas than the original core books.
 

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